High School Revokes Dress Code Policy That Targeted Girls

Elise Solé
A high school tried to require girls to have their dresses preapproved before prom but dropped the requirement after a backlash. (Photo: Getty Images)
A high school tried to require girls to have their dresses preapproved before prom but dropped the requirement after a backlash. (Photo: Getty Images)

A high school is backtracking on a strict rule that required girls to submit photos of their prom dresses for preapproval after backlash from the community.

“The students are not going to have to submit a photo,” Randy Bergquist, interim superintendent at the Osakis School District in Minnesota, told the Echo Press on Tuesday. “That doesn’t make sense — it’s 2017.”

Bergquist also released a statement Tuesday morning that read: “In an effort to prevent putting both our students and prom advisors in a difficult position on the night of prom and to prevent our students from spending hundreds of dollars on a dress inconsistent with the prom dress code, it was suggested that the prom advisor could pre-approve the dresses worn ahead of time. We were hoping this would ensure that no one would be denied the privilege of participating in the grand march on the night of prom. We are not going to require any such photo prior to the prom. None of the discussion items were acted on or put into policy.”

The photo policy that applied to 11th and 12th graders was originally discussed at a school board meeting and aimed to prevent girls — not boys — from feeling embarrassed should they be turned away from the April 22 prom for violating the dress code, according to an article published in the Twin Cities Pioneers Press.

The prom letter that was sent to students from Osakis High School read in part: “Ladies, an acceptable prom dress is one that you would feel comfortable wearing to a formal event at school. Length of dresses must be lower than the fingertips when arms are held straight down at sides. Tennis shoes, sunglasses and baseball caps are not formal attire and are not acceptable.” Boys were advised to wear the usual dress pants and sports coat.

The district, which Yahoo Style could not reach for comment, is now saying the letter was “merely a suggestion,” according to the Echo Press.

High school prom season has always been controversial, in part because school dress codes tend to focus significantly on girls’ clothing, which some say is sexist. In May 2016 Aniya Wolf, a Pennsylvania high school student, was told hours before attending her prom that the black suit she selected that made her feel “beautiful” violated the school’s dress code policy. “I felt humiliated, getting kicked out of prom,” Wolf told Today. “I wasn’t going to hurt anybody with a suit.” She added that she felt ostracized because she’s gay.

In 2015 Mireya Briceno was kicked out of her prom for wearing a long blue gown with white polka dots because of its open-back style. That same year Gabi Finlayson was forced to wear a winter coat over her midcalf-length pink dress for the entire prom because the straps of her dress were not at least 2 inches across each shoulder, per school policy.

And in 2013 a Washington teen named Brittney Minder demanded an apology from her school after she was forced to wear a shawl over her purple strapless dress because school administrators felt it revealed too much cleavage. “In my opinion, I feel that it is because I’m bigger chested and there is more cleavage that you can see, and there’s nothing I could really do about that,” Minder told Seattle news station KOMO.

Two years later, Alexus Miller-Wigfall, another student at Minder’s school, was given a one-day suspension after wearing a red floor-length, long-sleeve gown to her prom. Miller-Wigfall’s mom maintained that her daughter was targeted because she’s “plus-sized,” telling PennLive.com, “I couldn’t believe it. I don’t see anything wrong with that dress. What do they want her to wear, a turtleneck?”

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